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EMBO J. 1995 Nov 1;14(21):5350-7.

Requirements for iron-regulated degradation of the RNA binding protein, iron regulatory protein 2.

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Cell Biology and Metabolism Branch, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Iron regulatory proteins (IRPs) regulate the expression of genes involved in iron metabolism whose transcripts contain RNA stem-loop motifs known as iron-responsive elements (IREs). When iron concentrations are low, IRPs bind to IREs in the 5' untranslated region (UTR) of transcripts where they repress translation, or the 3' UTR of transcripts where they inhibit degradation. The RNA binding activities of the homologous proteins IRP1 and IRP2 are both regulated post-translationally. The binding activity of IRP2 is regulated by the degradation of the protein when cells are iron-replete. Here, we demonstrate that a 73 amino acid sequence that corresponds to a unique exon in IRP2 contains a sequence required for rapid degradation in iron-replete cells. The deletion of this sequence eliminates the rapid turnover of IRP2, whereas the transfer of this sequence to the corresponding position in the homologous protein IRP1 confers the capacity for iron-dependent degradation upon IRP1. Site-directed mutagenesis has demonstrated that specific cysteines within the IRP2 exon are required for iron-dependent degradation. The degradation of IRP2 appears to be mediated by the proteasome in iron-replete cells. When degradation is prevented, the RNA binding activity of IRP2 is not regulated by iron concentration. Thus, degradation is required for the regulation of the RNA binding activity of IRP2.

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